An immunohistochemical study of the distribution of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the adult human brain, with particular reference to Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is a member of the family of neuronal differentiation and survival-promoting molecules called neurotrophins. Neuronal populations known to show responsiveness to the action of brain-derived neurotrophic factor include the cholinergic forebrain, mesencephalic dopaminergic, cortical, hippocampal and striatal neurons. This fact has aroused considerable interest in the possible contribution of an abnormal brain-derived neurotrophic factor function to the aetiology and physiopathology of different neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

This report describes the cellular and regional distribution of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in post mortem control human brain and in limited regions of the brain in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, as was revealed by immunohistochemistry. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is widely expressed in the control human brain, both by neurons and glia. In neurons, brain-derived neurotrophic factor was localized in the cell body, dendrites and axons. Among the structures showing the most intense immunohistochemical labeling were the hippocampus, claustrum, amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, septum and the nucleus of the solitary tract. In the striatum, immunoreactivity was more intense in striosomes than in the matrix. Many labeled neurons were found in the substantia nigra pars compacta. The large putatively cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain showed no immunoreactivity.

The general pattern of labeling was similar in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor-immunoreactive material was found in senile plaques, and some immunoreactive cortical pyramidal neurons showed neurofibrillary tangles, suggesting that brain-derived neurotrophic factor may be involved in the process of neuronal degeneration and/or compensatory mechanisms which occur in this illness.

Source: Neuroscience 1999;88(4):1015-32

PMID: 10336117, UI: 99267159

(INSERM U289, H opital de la Pitie Sal petriere, Paris, France.)

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